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Sunday, May 24, 2015

book - Soul Mothers' Wisdom by Bette Freedson

I am so very grateful to have found author Bette Freedson through another mommy friend in the Mommy Stories Facebook group. She is so incredibly wise, thoughtful, intuitive and strong - all things that we everyday mommas look up to in someone to mentor us through the challenges of motherhood.

In her new book, Soul Mothers' Wisdom, she writes about the journey through understanding and coping with being a single parent. Having experienced this herself, she offers wonderfully understanding support and guidance to moms going through this change in their lives. 

I have not read the book but fully intend to get it, as it sounds to me like this book might be helpful to even partnered mothers as well. 

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Bette. I really appreciate you offering such wonderful ideas to our readers.



Images from BetteFreedson.com 

1. Could you share with us your education and work background? What led you to this profession?
I grew up in Haverhill, MA. During childhood and adolescence people asked the typical question,  “Bette, what do you want to do when you grow up?” my answer was always the same. “I want to help other people.” As a teenager I was the “go-to” friend for support, counseling peers in my mother’s closet on a phone with a long curly wire that wound its way out the door. 

In my new book, Soul Mothers’ Wisdom: Seven Insights for the Single Mother, I recount the stunning moment when I witnessed my father’s nervous breakdown and determined to understand and address the causes of, and cures for human emotional suffering.

Toward that goal, I studied psychology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. After graduation from college, I became a Jr. High School English teacher. A few years after my two daughters were born, I went back to graduate school at Boston University School of Social Work to earn my MSW. During three years of graduate school, while newly divorced, I partially supported my two children and myself by doing “psychic readings.” I have a strong intuitive gift and am able to sense a lot about someone.

However, I never professed to be a “mind reader” or “fortune teller” because I am neither. Following graduation from BUSSW, I developed my career as a clinical social worker and put together a stress management program that would teach others how to access their own intuitive gifts for coping with life and reducing stress. I called my course “Stress Management via Psychic Development.” Chapter Five of Soul Mothers’ Wisdom details my psychic development and the ways in which intuitive skills can help access soul wisdom.

While I still teach stress management skills in groups and individually, my “psychic readings” are now called “Intuitive Consultations” (bettefreedson.com) in order to highlight the intuitive and downplay the psychic, which unfortunately carries negative connotations despite the fact that it refers to mind, spirit and soul. The story of my career runs parallel to my single mother story. Autobiographical story lines intertwine and wind their way throughout Soul Mothers’ Wisdom along side the dual themes of stress management and the intuitive/psychic dimension of the mind.

2.    Where did you find the inspiration to write the book Soul Mothers' Wisdom? Was it based on your personal experience as a single mother? What made this a powerful topic for you to write about?
The inspiration to write Soul Mothers’ Wisdom came from my personal experience as a single mother and from my professional social work experience, working with many parents and single parents and witnessing the enormous challenges these individuals face raising their children. What made single parenting an even more powerful topic was the way in which my own psychic development and utilization of my personal intuition evolved as one of the most important coping tools in my single parenting tool box.

However, perhaps the most powerful impetus to write the book was the desire to write The Book I wish I had had during the most challenging years of bringing up two daughters as a single mother. 

The continuing refrain from childhood, “I want to help others,” has always been with me as a motivating force in my life. 

Now my goal is to be a beacon of hope for single mothers and a strong voice of support for all single parents and parents in general.

3. What do you imagine it feels like for most women who are single mothers to solely be "in charge of" their children, to be the sole caregiver, provider, protector? How is mothering in this way different from those who have another partner in the picture raising their children with them?
I do not have to imagine what it feels like to be solely or virtually “in charge of the children” because I lived it for many years. Because parenting in general is demanding, there are some ways in which being a single mother is not very different from mothering with another partner. 

The major differences occur when there is financial, social, medical or other family and work stressors. For a single mother, even one for whom another partner exists, any stressor ratchets up the responsibilities and the demands, increasing the tempo and the intensity of what she must do and what she must accomplish.

Some of the differences are visibly obvious--the mother who always attends teacher consults and parent/child events without another parent; the mother who is continually looking to friends and family for help with childcare, pick-ups and drop-offs etc. However, mothering alone, even when there is a new partner, boyfriend, lover and/or support network can feel—and can be-- very different. 

For a single mother the buck stops with mom, and too often there are too few bucks to make ends meet. A single mother is usually exhausted, her coping resources typically stretched to the max. Virtually she has to do the job of two, which can feel like four, and has to be everywhere at once and do everything every day.

And even when there is a new boyfriend or partner, the final decisions typically are the mother’s. In some cases with a new partner there can actually be new conflicts around childrearing, which can actually increase rather than decrease single mother stress. Some single moms get respite when there is another parent with whom the kids spend some time. However, in many cases the other parent for whatever reason is absent or disinterested. The upside in partner absentee situations can be less negotiating around decisions for the children, which may reduce conflict but may also increase stress.

One of the most important differences in the way single mothers feel resides in the way they perceive themselves. Single mothers often feel as if they are not part of a whole family, or that the family is “broken,” which in turn can translate into feeling unrealistic guilt about their fault in a relationship breakup or that there is something wrong with them. These are myths that “Soul Mothers’ Wisdom” specifically attempts to dispel. Chapter Three is devoted to a model for developing a strong and solid sense of wholeness of Self.


4.    What challenges do single mothers face?
Many, many challenges! Figuring out how to work and still be available for all that the children need—figuring out how to get enough sleep, personal time, downtime; figuring out how to take time off if a child is sick or get someone to else to be with the ill child; figuring out how to pay for all the things that need to be acquired for the children, including extra school activity fees—are only some of the daily challenges that single moms face.

Exhaustion from the never-ending cycle of parenting 24/7 is one of the biggest challenges all single parents face. 

Probably the next biggie is the challenge of having an adult personal life with little time, little energy and usually very little money. Oh, and trying to work while having full time parenting responsibility is right up there too. Mothers whose children have a biological father or highly committed other partner in the picture still have many challenges despite the fact that they may get an occasional respite.

One of the most important challenges a single mother faces is to continue to believe in her strength, her ability, her resilience and her worth as a person. Emotionally single mothers face the triple whammy challenge of keeping their spirits uplifted,their thinking realistic, and their emotions balanced. 

“Soul Mothers’ Wisdom” gives single mothers ideas and strategies for beating the stress of having the lion’s share of the work on their shoulders, and provides inspiration for believing in themselves. 

The book contains many stories of strong single mothers who faced their own personal challenges—and demons--with insight and courage. These stories can be support and inspiration for the difficulties and challenges faced by other single mothers.

5.    What are some benefits you have heard about or experienced that single mothers receive? 
For some single mothers, there is a benefit in reduction of stress from exiting a conflictual and/or abusive situation. For these women, the stress of mothering alone becomes more tolerable than the stress of a toxic relationship.

Although single motherhood can feel to some like an affliction of unending stress, to some, single motherhood can have the amazing benefit of being on a path to growing stronger, more resilient and to achieving inner Wisdom for many. Maturity, resilience, and strength and the ways of developing these qualities using wise psychic guidance are key themes of Soul Mothers ’Wisdom. For me and for many other single mothers one of the benefits of single parenting was the development of Self-reliance, greater Self-esteem, and a belief in my ability to take care of myself.

 While many life situations might inspire this type of growth, single motherhood is challenging enough that the inspiration to develop one’s strong Self and wise inner spirit is a natural. Why would a single mother not want to be all she could be—for herself and as a model of success and survival for her children?

6.    How do you feel single mothers are misunderstood? 
Single mothers, especially poor and minority single mothers, are often the victims of distorted and stigmatized thinking. The status of “single mother” can be misunderstood as “not good enough” (as in, “without a man”) “not woman enough” (as in, “to keep a man”), “not smart enough” (as in, “to have remained part of a couple.”) Single mother headed households are often misunderstood as “broken,” and have at times been overtly blamed for causing societal problems as opposed to people understanding the reality that it is the root social problems that more often lead to mothers bringing up children alone.

Because single mothers have so little time, so very little money, and not a lot of discretionary energy, they are rarely organized into a lobbying of political force. Thus single mothers remain somewhat marginalized and somewhat disenfranchised in the larger socio-political culture, leading to their becoming targets for the blame of society’s ills.

In the recent unrest after the Baltimore event where a young African-American man died in police custody, some conservative thinkers blamed the social problems of lack of resources, poor housing, overt discrimination and the resultant violence on the lack of fathers in the community. From there it is not a reach, despite being vastly distorted, for some to mistakenly interpret that the root causes of these social ills rest with single mothers. Misunderstandings and misreads of situations such as these can and do lead to continuing stigmatization of single mothers as unworthy and broken.

7.    It appears that single mothers rarely have time for themselves yet possibly need it the most compared with other mothers. How do you suggest busy, hard working, never seeming to stop single mothers attain this time to themselves? Any suggestions on how they can make that possible, and why they should find time for themselves, how it might benefit them?
Time for Self is vital, and as you point, hard for any mother to achieve, and especially hard for single mothers. Yet, for single mothers it may be most important.

The most significant benefit of down time and Self-time is for stress reduction and the replenishment of the reserves of energy needed to do this incredibly hard job. Recovering from a stressful day or week is vitally important and not necessarily on the single mother’s priority list. However, it is Doable!!      

First thing for the single mom to do is to revamp her thinking about this. Think time for oneself can be short spurts, even if it cannot be achieved with a whole week off with someone else to do the childcare, and it does not have to be expensive.

One of the ways I advise is to form support groups with other single mothers or other partnered mothers to share child care time.  Ability to do this depends on the community in which one is living and also depends on the mother’s personal temperament. It’s a great idea, but not for everyone. For some mothers there is extended family around, and I suggest that it is okay to ask for help. Again, for some this is not feasible or desirable. I also suggest joining parent support groups at churches and at family resource centers where there might be support groups that provide childcare. This also depends on the community in which one lives.

Some mothers get up an hour before the children or go to bed a few hours later to have time in the morning or in the evening. Sometimes one is too tired to do that.

One of the simplest ways is to take 5 minutes for a short meditation during a coffee break or while a baby is napping or while the kids are playing. Think short and simple as opposed to long and impossible. Sometimes sitting on a bench at the playground and just breathing while children play or pushing the baby in the swing can be relief time even if not “alone” time.

See Chapter four in Soul Mothers’ Wisdom on ideas and lots of tips for beating stress.



8.    You wrote this on your Web site from the book, "I believe that we can do a better job as single mothers and can feel better about our lives when we know ourselves better and know how to cope with what life deals out." Can you explain this more, what do you mean by this? Why is it important for single mothers especially to know themselves and how to cope through life stressors? 
Knowing one’s Self means having Self-awareness. With Self-awareness you have access to knowing what you are thinking, feeling and intending. Self-awareness can make you stronger and more resilient in order to be a proactive responder to your own life. Without awareness of your thoughts, emotions and motivations, you become a reactor to events without the full ability to evaluate the effectiveness of your choices.

Single mothers have a challenging road and we need all the strength and resilience we can muster up. When we know ourselves we can clear out the inner chatter of distorted thinking that clogs the human mind. When we clear out the fear, anger and insecurity caused by negative thinking and excessively painful emotions, we become a clearer channel for the inner knowing voice, the soul wisdom that can inform our choices and guide our parenting.

Bear in mind, it takes courage to know one’s self, because sometimes you find out something about yourself that you don’t particularly approve of or like. However, when you know whatever it is about yourself, you have options to change or not to change. However you decide, it is the determination to know one’s Self better that helps reduce stress, and clear the inner channels for the receiving of Soul Wisdom.

When using psychic/soul wisdom, we are less apt to experience high levels of stress and thus can do a better job and feel better about our lives. “Soul Mothers’ Wisdom” devotes Chapter Five to the development of the psychic dimension of the mind. In Chapter Two of the book I describe the way I discovered a dramatic dose of Self-awareness and wholeness at a Hollywood party.

9.    How does one parent with confidence and strength? What are some examples of doing this, and what might parenting in this way bring to a single mother? 
Parenting with confidence and strength has a lot to do with using practical strategies for effective parenting in conjunction with applying inner wisdom to choose effective solutions to problems. Parenting with effective parenting skills and the guidance of soul wisdom can bring a single mother peace of mind.  An example of parenting with confidence and strength can be found in “Soul Mothers’ Wisdom” in the story of Noreen. Noreen was a married “single mother.” Because Noreen’s husband was virtually totally nonfunctional, Noreen had to learn to live “as if” she were a single parent. In doing so Noreen found her strength and confidence in her ability to manage all she had to manage. Barbara’s story tells of adaptation to a set of devastating circumstances in which having to rebuild her life literally from the ground up gave Barbara a connection to her resilience, maturity and wisdom.

10. What are a few coping strategies you would encourage single parents to utilize during stressful times?
In Soul Mothers’ Wisdom there are many tips and strategies for coping during stressful times. A key strategy is to recognize your distorted thinking (even when there is a little mustard seed of truth) and apply the ABCD, E, F, and G’s of stress management. G. stands for “the Gobble.” The negative thinking we engage in when facing in stressful times.The G’s are a new addition to the stress management skill set in name only. Clearing out the non-productive thinking is a well-recognized stress management technique.

For instance, some of us tell ourselves that we are to blame for all our problems;
Some blame someone else entirely. The reality is that there is always a blend of responsibility. Another gobble is that we might delude ourselves that we can control what we cannot control; causing us to mistakenly think that something is wrong with us.

While it may benefit stress reduction to take an honest look at our responsibility in the situation, it does us no good to blame ourselves. Taking a realistic and honest look at the stressful situation is a coping strategy I would encourage all single parents to use. Sometimes professional help is needed to help with this process.

I would encourage single mothers to consider reading the section in the book entitled “Are You a Disastraunaut?” There are many ideas in this section and other sections in Chapter four for how to deal with the catastrophic and negative thinking which can lead to excess stress and too many painful emotions. 

In Chapter Four of “Soul Mothers’ Wisdom” the SOLVE method of problem solving will teach the single mother how to find the inner strength to apply to her search for solutions to her problems.

11. How might other mothers, who are not single mothers themselves, support their single mother friends? 
Because the married world revolves around couples, the social group that a married or partnered woman was in occasionally changes. When this happens, a single mother might feel abandoned by her non-single mother friends and be somewhat at a loss to restore a social network.

My foremost recommendation for mothers who are not single mothers is to stay connected to your single mother friend and understand that she faces a great deal of responsibility, and loneliness, especially when the situation is new. Her pain and disappointment, even if she is feeling some relief, can be made more painful by feeling left aside by friends.

All parents need support and single parents need a lot of it!  You can you're your single mother friend emotional support in the same way you do with your partnered friends. Listen with compassion. You do not have to fix her situation.

My married mother friend Risa was my rock during the hardest years of my single mother days. She determined to support me and her family became an extended family for me. Being with Risa’s family at important, and ordinary times, helped to mitigate the loneliness that I felt.

Sometimes partnered mothers fear that the single mother may lure away their partners. Refrain from believing in this myth. While there may be a case or two, it is far, far from the reality. You can offer practical assistance, ask her how she is doing and occasionally include her family in your family’s activity. You are not required to replace the other parent, just be the friend you would naturally be in any situation.

12. How many children do you have? What are 5 words you think they would use to describe you as a mother?
I have two daughters, two sons-in-law, three granddaughters, (11, 8 and 8) and a 5 year old grandson.

I think my children would say about me that I am devoted, caring, strong, loving and only occasionally annoying. My grandchildren might say fun and loving and leave off the annoying part.

13. What is your goal in working specifically with single mothers, writing this book, and offering workshops for working with single mothers? What do you hope single parents receive from your work? 
My goal in working with single mothers, offering workshops and in writing “Soul Mothers’ Wisdom” is to empower single mothers and single parents (and all parents) to trust in their inner guidance and trust themselves to do the job of raising their children well. I hope that my book will inspire their confidence and peace of mind.

I hope that single parents when they read the book or take a workshop will feel inspired, hopeful and reassured.

14. Anything else you want to share with us? 
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts about single parenting and about “Soul Mothers’ Wisdom.” I encourage single mothers and all parents to develop the psychic channel of the mind that will connect them to their “Soul Wisdom.”

You can find out more about the book at:

http://find.mainewriters.org/writers/bette_j_freedson/

www.bettefreedson.com


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